Last updated on January 16th, 2021 at 09:37 pm EST
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Playa Arrecife photos
Playa Arrecife fast facts
- English name: Arrecife Beach (Arrecife translates to “Reef”)
- Distance from San Jose: 225km (approximately 4 hours)
- Closest Town: Manzanillo (small town), Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (large town)
- Beach Status: Public beach
Playa Arrecife beach details
Sand, shade, scenery, and unique features
Playa Arrecife is one of Costa Rica’s most paradisiacal beaches. It is a narrow beach; has soft, golden sand and bright-blue water that’s turquoise in places, and is backed by photo-worthy palm trees, a few of which you can lay out under. An offshore reef provides snorkeling opportunities.
Crowds and noise
Playa Arrecife receives a small but steady number of visitors, mainly because it’s one of the most beautiful beaches along the southern Caribbean coast. People come to this beach to relax in solitude, so noise is kept to a minimum.
Cleanliness and Ecological Blue Flag rating
Costa Rica’s Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica (Ecological Blue Flag Program) promotes sustainability and public health (to learn more about the program, see our related blog post: Costa Rica’s Ecological Blue Flag Program: Safe and Sustainable Beaches). Every year, several beaches in Costa Rica compete for top honors, which are bestowed annually according to strict criteria that span the topics of water quality, beach sanitation and garbage disposal, the treatment of industrial waste, beach security, and environmental education. Beaches that participate in the program and meet 90-100% of the eligibility criteria achieve a 1-star rating. Additional efforts invite beaches to achieve 2-star, 3-star, 4-star, or 5-star ratings (5 stars is the highest rating).
In 2019, Playa Arrecife did not participate in the Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica and therefore did not receive a star rating.
Development at Playa Arrecife
Hotels, restaurants, tours, bathrooms, etc.
A few establishments, mainly vacation homes and a dive center, fall along the road that parallels Playa Arrecife but most aren’t located directly on the beach. For this reason, Playa Arrecife feels secluded although it isn’t remote.
Playa Arrecife safety
Swimming and water safety
Swimming is allowed at Playa Arrecife. As always, exercise caution in and around the water, especially if you plan to visit with children or inexperienced swimmers.
Playa Arrecife is named for the area’s reef (Arrecife means “Reef” in English). For your own safety and the protection of Costa Rica’s underwater world, please be careful swimming or snorkeling around the reef.
Never bring items of value with you to the beach and always keep an eye on your belongings. Remember to lock your rental car if you have one. Do not visit the beach before sunrise or after sunset. If possible, visit the beach as part of a group to avoid being at this remote-feeling beach alone.
Playa Arrecife location and road conditions
Access to Playa Arrecife and 4×4 requirement
Playa Arrecife is located on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. It sits just north of Punta Uva and west of Playa Manzanillo.
Playa Arrecife is an approximate 8-kilometer, 15-minute drive southeast from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on Road 256. The cutoff to the beach is signed for “Arrecife”. A 4×4 vehicle is not required to reach Playa Arrecife.
Map of Playa Arrecife Costa Rica
Parking at Playa Arrecife
There is no official parking at Playa Arrecife. Locals park randomly along the back of the beach (which runs parallel to the beach access road) among the palm trees.
Best reason(s) to visit Playa Arrecife
Offering solitude and some of the prettiest sand along the southern Caribbean coast, Playa Arrecife is worth visiting purely to experience the beach. Most visitors don’t stay at the vacation homes that near Playa Arrecife; the beach is best enjoyed during a day trip from whichever destination you plan to station yourself at along the southern Caribbean coast.
Beach hopping from Playa Arrecife (or alternative beach options in the region)
Recommended day trips from Playa Arrecife include visits to Playa Punta Uva, Playa Manzanillo, Playa Chiquita, Playa Cocles, or Playa Puerto Viejo.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to Playa Arrecife? What did you think?
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Not sure which Costa Rica beaches are the best to visit? Let the beaches in this article inspire you: